Qatar is an outstanding leisure & travel location, but its heritage, art and culture are big contributors to its beauty. Qatar is home to some of the most majestic buildings and landmarks in the city, some of them carrying a strong historical significance. From world-class museums and iconic galleries to inspiring street art.
Here is a list of must-see places in Qatar that boasts a dynamic art, culture & heritage scene.
National Museum of Qatar
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the National Museum of Qatar draws inspiration from and recreates the naturally occurring crystal formations known as the desert rose. Built around Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani’s original palace, and the seat of government for 25 years, the National Museum of Qatar gives voice to Qatar’s heritage whilst celebrating its future. It spans a whopping 430,500 square feet.
The museum traces Qatar’s history and development over the centuries, teaching visitors about the country’s history and the creation of its early cities. Exhibitions bring together antiquities and modern influences, stimulating conversation about the effects of rapid change.
The Museum of Islamic Arts
Also referred to as the crown jewel of Qatar museums is another architectural wonder. Designed by another Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, the museum reflects the history and culture of Islam.
Qatar Museum Gallery
Katara is another venue for public art projects and is part of the Katara Cultural Village, which also includes theatres, concert halls, and eateries. The intimate QM Gallery gives Qatar’s museums a venue to display its holdings. The gallery presents artists whose work is primarily concerned with human topics to encourage a personal connection with audiences. These include Brigitte Lacombe’s investigation of female athletes in the Arab world and Yan Pei Ming’s photographs of well-known Arabs.
Within the refurbished development of Msheireb in the oldest part of the capital, the Msheireb Museums celebrate the history of Qatar. Four heritage houses – Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed Bin Jassim House and Radwani House – were restored by property developer Msheireb and transformed into museums that explore key players and periods in Qatar’s history and evolution.
On the banks of the Wadi Musheireb, Souq Waqif is a market filled with traditional charm showcasing a bygone era while remaining a hub of activity, where commerce and gossip collide. With its mud-daubed buildings, Doha’s century old trading market, feels like an anachronism, particularly against the backdrop of Doha’s dramatic modernist skyline. You can Indulge in retail therapy from buying affordable, intricate gold jewelry to antiques to handicrafts, woven fabrics, rugs, wooden furniture, glass ornaments and more, the souq rewards treasure hunters with retail purchases from around the region.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village has a stunning beach promenade, an impressive open-air amphitheatre and network of exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities. Spelled in the ancient manner, Katara is a self-styled cultural village nestled between the gleaming financial district of West Bay, and the half-moon towers of The Pearl residential neighbourhood. Bordered by a vast beach on one side, and the twin Katara Hills on the other, Katara is Doha’s go-to destination for art, culture and cuisine.
Designed by Turkey’s Zeynep Fadilloglu, who is believed to be the first female architect to specialise in mosques, the Katara mosque features Persian and Turkish tile and enamel work in shades of blue and gold, proffering a stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. The second mosque in Katara, called the Gold Mosque is smaller, but no less eye catching. Facing the amphitheatre, it is covered with gold tiling, which glints in the sun.
National Library of Qatar
QNL provides an environment that fosters learning, play and innovation. Tools and equipment are provided at the library’s Innovation Stations, catering to a dizzying array of activities and interests – videography, photography, design, sound editing and 3D printing. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the diamond shaped exterior of the library belies its spacious interior, which prioritizes light and visibility. The bookshelves themselves are an integral part of the 45,000 sq meter building, rising out of the floor and blending into the architecture.
The Al Zubarah Archaeological Site
This site in Qatar is recently added to the list UNESCO world heritage site in 2013. The fort, the houses markets, and the mosque built at that time by the inhabitants are among the archaeological relics of Qatar civilisation from 1760 that are preserved on the site. The structures in Al Zubarah are the only evidence that Qatar has always been a country with incredible architecture that combines traditional elements with modern ones.
One of the nearest historical sites in Qatar, is the Jazirat Bin Ghanam, also referred to as Purple Island, 5-7 kms from the city of Al Khor The island was constantly used by traders, fisherman, and Peral drivers in the year 1000 BCE but never by people. The peal camp was organised on this island later, between 400 and 600 CE, during the Sassanian and Late Islamic periods. The island also houses the rare Mangrove around the shore along with shattered wildlife that includes the migratory species like herons and flamingos.
The Ras Brouq is a peninsular land lying towards the west coast in Qatar. Housing the remains of prehistoric settlement and occupation of humans, Ras Brouq is dominated by eroded cliffs and mushroom-shaped hills. Ras Brouq was never a permanent habitat for humans, but the remains of nomadic tribes and their hunting tools are discovered.
When exploring Qatar, you will come across several public art installations. Some of the famous ones to look out for are The Force of Nature II, a large bronze sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn depicting Mother Nature as a woman hurling the planet in circles. The Miraculous Journey at Sidra Medical and Research Centre illustrates the beauty of the extraordinary process of the development of a foetus. One of several impressive sculptures at the Hamad International Airport, the Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer is centrally located in the duty-free area. The plush 23-foot yellow teddy bear sculpted from bronze sits under a lamp. Both humorous and comforting, the piece reminds travellers of childhood or precious objects from home. Qatar is home to several heritage sites that offer a rich cultural and historical experience to history buffs across the country and beyond.